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Boston College Baseball Weekend Preview - #22 Virginia

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After having their home opener in their new stadium snowed out, the Eagles hit the road once again to face their second ranked ACC opponent in a row.

BCEagles.com

After having what was supposed to be their first game in the brand-new Brighton Campus stadium cancelled due to heavy snow, the Boston College baseball team heads down south, once again, to face the #22 Virginia Cavaliers in an important early-season ACC series.

Series Location:

Davenport Field at Disharoon Park, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Game Times:

Friday, March 16th @ 4pm ET vs. Virginia
Saturday, March 17th @ 1pm ET vs. Virginia
Sunday, March 18th @ 1pm ET vs. Virginia

Probable Starters:

Fri: BC: Jr. RHP Jacob Stevens (2-2, 2.95 ERA) vs. UVA: Sr. RHP Derek Casey (2-1, 3.76 ERA)
Sat: BC: Jr. LHP Dan Metzdorf (0-2, 10.13 ERA) vs. UVA: Jr. LHP Daniel Lynch (1-2, 4.68 ERA)
Sun: BC: Sr. RHP Brian Rapp (2-1, 3.22 ERA) vs. UVA: Jr. RHP Daniel Sperling (2-0, 1.96 ERA)

How to Watch/Listen:

Again, this weekend, there are a number of ways fans of the Boston College baseball team can follow along with all the action in Charlottesville. As always, all three games of the series will be covered on Gametracker, with all three also streaming live on the ACC Network via the WatchESPN app. Saturday and Sunday’s contests will also be broadcast on the radio at WINA 1070 AM/98.9 FM and streamed online. Links to all options can be found on the schedule page for Boston College baseball at BCEagles.com.

What you should know about the University of Virginia Cavaliers:

After walking-off James Madison University on Wednesday night, head coach Brian O’Connor has his 22nd-ranked Virginia Cavaliers heading into this weekend’s action with an overall record of 11-6, including a 1-2 mark in the ACC, thanks to an opening-weekend series loss at the hands of Duke. Though their record is not as pristine as in years past, the Cavaliers are still a very talented, well-coached, and disciplined team that will challenge BC in all three games this weekend.

As is usually the case with Virginia, the strength of their team lies on the mound, and this year is no exception, as Boston College will face three quality starters this weekend in senior Derek Casey, junior Daniel Lynch, and junior Evan Sperling. Casey, a right-hander from Hanover, VA, will get the start on Friday afternoon. He leads the Cavaliers pitching staff with 41 strikeouts in just over 26 innings pitched, while boasting a 2-1 record with a 3.76 ERA. Lynch, the lone lefty in the rotation, has had an up and down season to-date, compiling a 4.68 ERA and a 1-2 record in 25 innings pitched, and will likely get the nod on Saturday. The Richmond, VA native has also fanned 24 batters while only issuing seven walks on the season. On the hill in Sunday’s finale will be right-hander Evan Sperling. Perhaps the most statistically-successful Virginia pitcher so far this year, Sperling comes into the weekend sporting a perfect 2-0 record to go along with a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings pitched. He’s holding opposing batters to a lowly .117 batting average and has struck out 35 in his four starts this season.

Offensively, the Cavaliers are hitting .286 as a team and feature four position players over the .300 mark. Leading the way at the plate is infielder Justin Novak. The senior leads the team with a .345 batting average and has added a pair of doubles and eight RBI. Behind Novak is fellow infielder Andy Weber. Weber, a junior, is batting .319 on the year with two doubles, two home runs, and a team-leading 15 RBI. Junior infielder Nate Eikhoff and junior outfielder Jake McCarthy are having good years as well, as they are batting .317 and .314, respectively, and have combined to drive in 19 runs.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

After a close series loss to NC State, in which one pitch was the difference between coming home with two wins and coming home with one, head coach Mike Gambino and his Boston College squad will look to regroup and gain some early ground in the ACC as they head to Virginia this weekend. The last time these two teams faced off, it was the Eagles who got the better of the Cavaliers, taking two of three games from Virginia in 2016 in Chestnut, Hill.

The Eagles will feature the same rotation against Virginia as they have all season, with junior Jacob Stevens getting the ball on Friday afternoon, junior Dan Metzdorf taking the hill on Saturday, and senior Brian Rapp getting the nod in Sunday’s rubber-match. Stevens and Rapp have really thrown the ball well in the last few weeks, with Stevens one pitch away from earning the win in an absolute gem last weekend at NC State and Rapp allowing only a pair of hits in a seven-inning shutout performance in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Wolfpack. If Metzdorf can find some success against Virginia this weekend, BC will have a very good chance to walk out of Davenport Stadium with multiple wins.

At the plate, the Eagles are swinging the bats as well as they have in recent memory and boast a .283 team batting average. Leading the way at the dish is true freshman Chris Galland. In nine starts this season, the outfielder is batting a team-leading (and ACC-leading) .514, with four doubles, two triples, and ten RBI. He’s also a perfect 10 for 10 in stolen bases, which is good for tops in the conference. Not to be outdone by his young teammate, senior Jake Palomaki is also off to scorching start to the season, as the Eagles’ shortstop is batting .407, with eight doubles, a triple, a home run, and 12 RBI. Brian Dempsey, a sophomore, has also come on strong in the early going of 2018, as the infielder is batting .354, with a double and nine RBI. Jack Cunningham and Scott Braren are also both batting over .300, with Cunningham at .306 and Braren at .302.

Prediction:

Before I get into this weekend, I have to point out, if not for one pitch on Friday night against NC State, my weekend prediction would have be spot on. But, as they say, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Oh, well. Looking at this weekend’s match up with the Virginia Cavaliers, I see a great opportunity in front of Boston College. This year’s UVA team is not the same as in years past. They are not the dominant team that will slowly, and methodically, accumulate wins throughout the season and end up with an overall record of 40-14. Instead, this Virginia team, while very talented and well-coached, is vulnerable; they’ve lost games this season to teams they traditionally do not lose to. They aren’t swinging the bat as well as they are accustomed to and, because of that, look for O’Connor to revert back to playing small-ball when he has the opportunity, something that has become a staple of Cavalier baseball. While they may play conservative at times offensively, playing for a single-run per inning, their pitching staff is as deep and talented as ever and will look to challenge BC’s hitters with fastballs-away early in the count and back-foot sliders late. Though they will be tough, I think Boston College is getting Virginia at the perfect time: the Eagles’ offense is playing very well and the rotation of Stevens, Metzdorf, and Rapp should give them, at the very least, a great opportunity to take the series on the road. The x-factor in this weekend’s series is going to be Virginia’s home-field advantage. While every team enjoys some sort of boost when playing at home, UVA maximizes theirs and always seems to get borderline calls late in games, not to mention pitching coach Karl Kuhn is often allowed extra-long mound visits with his pitchers. But, that’s life in the ACC. Even with all of that going on, I think BC takes advantage of a down-year Virginia, and comes home with an even record in conference.